When I’m not writing this blog, my full time job is as a university academic and that job involves research. Research is tested when it is published in peer reviewed papers and conferences. Although they have taken some time to appear, two papers that I wrote with my colleague Professor Stephen Dovers have now appeared and may be of interest. They are:
- Michael Eburn and Stephen Dovers ‘Legal Aspects of Risk Management in Australia’ (2014) 4(1) Journal of Integrated Disaster Risk Management 61-72; DOI10.5595/idrim.2014.0076; and
- Michael Eburn and Stephen Dovers, ‘Learning lessons from disasters: alternatives to Royal Commissions and other quasi-judicial inquiries‘, (2015) Australian Journal of Public Administration (Online); DOI: 10.1111/1467-8500.12115.
Both papers are on the related theme of how better to learn from disasters. In the first one we argue that one of the risks the emergency services are managing is the risk of being blamed after a disaster. Focusing on that risk detracts from actually helping the community. We argue that avoiding the temptation to ‘blame’ would go a long way to improving community safety. In the second paper we give some arguments why the Royal Commission model of post event inquiry is not the best way to identify lessons from catastrophic events. We suggest some alternatives which are the subject of our ongoing work with the support of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.
These papers seem particularly relevant with the release of another inquiry, this time the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the 2013 Wambelong (or Warrumbungle National Park) fire. I haven’t yet finished reading the report but already it appears to be pointing the finger of blame at the NPWS over their management of the park and the early response to the fire; again using the knowledge that this fire became a destructive mega fire to judge decisions that had to be made in minutes and when the actual outcome was just one of many possible outcomes.